dollars can do a lot for a student body. At Brooklyn Technical High
School, the payoff from such generous alumni gifts includes a near 100
percent college entrance rate and university-level class projects.
the alumni-driven monetary campaign designed to maintain Brooklyn Tech's
75 years of excellence, was founded in 1999 with the help of private
industry grants and funding from New York City's Board of Education.
alumni fund enables teachers to shape and update coursework and provides
mentors from private businesses, colleges, and universities to work
closely with the students. CARETECH has formed strong ties with Polytechnic
University over the past few years, and next spring, Matt Mandery, project
director and former principal of the school, expects that Brooklyn Tech
students will be offered a course in construction management at the
university. This is not something that a university could do with
a typical school, but our students have the engineering background to
do well in a college course. To date, the alumni campaign has
established 15 ongoing programs at Brooklyn Tech, including research
opportunities and paid internships in private industry.
CARETECH's programs is a senior civil engineering course in which
student teams complete their senior design projects, starting with a
feasibility study and progressing to a 3-D model and final report. This
past year, says teacher Issac Honor, students developed seven different
projects, including a multi-level parking facility, a monorail for a
park across the street from the school, a handball court, and a skate
park. We used to do a pedestrian bridge, but student feedback
showed that while the bridge was good, they wanted to do something on
their own, says Honor. Now there is room for students to
come up with new ideas for their own projects. They can expand on an
existing idea, too, but they're really going to have to embellish
it and take it to another level.
in the course are linked with engineering mentors from such supporting
agencies as the New York City Technical College and the city's
Department of Transportation, who teach them everything from how to
calculate support loads to how to get approval from a City Parks committee
to move a tree.
Tech also recently revamped a freshman design course to give students
more hands-on experience. The result: first-year high schoolers are
creating pop-up books and designing chairs made out of corrugated cardboard
that can withstand 150 pounds. The freshman program is really
unique because students that age aren't usually given the opportunity
to give feedback or express themselves, says Honor. So what
we end up with are projects that are exciting and that teach the kids
about things like tension and compression, but aren't too technically
also points out that the projects available to freshmen are gender neutral.
We're constructing a chair or a book, something that everybody
uses and something that aesthetics plays a role in, he says. Engineering
is not a guy thing,' it's not all about cars and boats
and legos. There's a lot of opportunity for women of all races
in technology careers, Honor continues. We just have to
be able to attract females into engineering at an early age, or we're
going to lose them to other fields. And the success of the freshman
design course is just one of the indicators of CARETECH's influence
on Brooklyn Tech.
CARETECH, we wanted not just to donate money sporadically to the school
but to have the school renew itself through ways like changing the curriculum
and providing professional development, says Mandery. For
most of the alumni (who give money to CARETECH), they feel that going
to Brooklyn Tech was their pivotal educational experience, explains
Mike Weiss, who taught at his alma mater for 27 years and now chairs
the alumni association. It's a feeling like many people have
with their college.
wonder. Brooklyn Tech is one of three New York City public high schools
that requires competitive examination for admission. And of those three,
it is the only school to offer a choice of majors during the junior
and senior years. Fifteen of the 16 majors are in engineering, science,
or technology. Last year, Brooklyn Tech boasted 4,200 students and 220
teachers, and the previous year, 98.4 percent of the senior graduates
entered four-year colleges.
history of Tech is preparing young people who are upwardly mobile, particularly
in New York City where the students may come from diverse cultural groups
and with blue-collar backgrounds, says Weiss. Some of them
are the first in their family to go on to college.
think that most University of California-Berkeley engineering students
see enough of each other in class, at the library, or working on group
projects. But a number of them spend an extra 10 to 20 hours a week
together in practice. While the College of Engineering accounts for
just 13 percent of the undergraduate student body, its students make
up almost half of the Bears on the football field. But only at halftime.
percent of engineering majors at UC Berkeley were members of the Cal
Band last year, a high-stepping, school-spirited tradition that dates
back over 100 years. And although auditions for the 2002-2003 troupe
had not been completed by press time, director Bob Calonico says that
he's assuming we'll have a similar percentage of engineering
students this fall. Why such a high number? It could be that their
mathematically grounded minds help engineers count out the rhythm and
stay in step. I think that there are so many engineering students
in the Cal Band because music is very mathematical, says Amy Ng,
a junior chemical engineering student who plays the piccolo. So
many aspects of music are scientific. I believe that studies show a
musical background has an effect on a student's ability to learn
math, she continues.
could be that engineering students are forced to budget their time wisely
with all the requirements they're expected to meetand the
mandates of this extra-curricular activity seem a little more bearable
to engineering students. Ng, a two-season veteran of Berkeley's
marching band, takes even more time out of her schedule than most; she
is one of only five members serving on the musical activities committee
that conducts additional performances by the Straw Hat Band and plans
road trips, among other tasks.
this busy young woman, the rigors of Cal Band pale in comparison to
the benefits.The best part of being in the Cal Band is the social
aspect, says Ng. Especially with the demands of school,
the Cal Band allows us a release from our studies and gives us a chance
to play music and make friends.
and the livin' is easy. This may be true for some students when
school lets out, but at the University of Memphis, biomedical engineering
professor Robert Malkin has created an intense, hands-on program that
challenges students to use their education and experience to improve
health conditions and provide much needed medical tools to developing
countries. The result: Two undergraduate engineering students spent
their summer at a Nicaraguan hospital repairing medical equipment, installing
new machines and training local healthcare providers how to use the
fall of 2001, with the University of Memphis behind him, Malkin chartered
and incorporated Engineering World Health, a nonprofit organization
that sends students and professionals to developing countries to help
with the technical aspect of healthcare. Malkin, whose background is
in electrical and mechanical engineering, and his colleague Mohammad
Kiani at the University of Tennessee, found that the biomedical engineering
field offered no real service learning opportunities. For years,
we've been wanting to do more in service, says Malkin, but
there was nothing available for biomedical engineers. We wanted to do
it and the students wanted to do it.
its inception last fall, EWH has adopted the Children's Hospital
in Managua, Nicaragua, and its goal is to send graduate students or
professionals to the hospital twice during the school year. Students
at the institute endure a rigorous four- or five-week training in Memphis
that includes language immersion and political and social studies of
Nicaragua. The remaining four weeks of the program are spent in the
Latin American country. This combination provides almost year-round
coverage in Managua, and the EWH program is likely to expand to other
cities soon, starting with Leone, Nicaragua, and reaching to locations
in Bolivia, Haiti, and Brazil within the next two years.
Institute is open to chemistry, engineering, and physics majors from
all over the countrythe pair that returned from the inaugural
trip in August were studying at the University of Southern California
and Case Western Reserve, respectively. But the real benefactors of
EWH are not the students; they are the patients at Children's Hospital.
of the doctors there were trained in part in the United States, so they
know exactly what they're missing. But most importantly,
says Malkin, the patients and their parents know, just by seeing
the machines that are hooked up to their bodies, and they have an immediate
and very deep appreciation for what we're doing.
Drenning is an associate editor of Prism.
She can be reached at email@example.com.
Barbara Mathias-Riegel is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.